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Lord Liaden

[Storytime] Birth of RAVEN

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Another issue: enemies. RAVEN is going to get alot of them, but a few important ones. . .

 

-Dr Destroyer: The Bad Doctor has ongoing efforts to hunt down and kill Menton. With RAVEN formed, suddenly, those efforts are going to have even less success than normal. At the same time, his covert infiltration and influence efforts will run into more competition than before. Zertstoiten is smart enough to add one and one together, and figure out that Menton has come into some form of additional resource recently. Then, things get complicated. . .

 

-VIPER: RAVEN is playing in alot of the same territory that VIPER is. Given their intel capabilities, its all but certain the Supreme Serpent will realize that somebody new has entered the field. Also, even moreso than Dr Destroyer, VIPER will probably be able to put together an intelligence report on likely members, based on any known areas of influence that seem prosperous, or at least unaffected, following this new entrant.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Personally' date=' I've always held that a villainous agency with long-term recurring foe potential should be scalable, so that it can be used over much of the life of a campaign. Beginning PC heroes should run afoul of some of the agency's minor schemes and draw fire from its lower ranks, but as the heroes delve deeper into the organization's affairs - and grow in experience - their opponents should have the resources to comparably raise the challenge.[/quote']

 

And this I think is the key to successful Super Criminal organization design. The challenge has to remain appropriate to the player characters; there's no fun in being handed a victory on a silver platter, but there's also no fun in being told that you can't make a difference (in a Superhero campaign), or that your survival depends on being too trivial a threat to arouse serious concern.

 

In an old-school D&D sort of way, the best way to use RAVEN and similar organizations might be to have the actions of the PCs themselves pushing the development of the orgainzation, with progressively greater force being drawn to them as the conspiracy begins to recognize the danget they represent, and the PCs themselves uncovering progressively deeper level of what should at each stage appear to be a nearly self contained criminal enterprise.

 

So, how many points would PC heroes have to be built on to face off against Menton, possibly with one or two more of his chief cohorts beside him, backed up by a half-dozen or more other supervillains and a few score agents? :eg:

 

Whatever point level we think is appropriate, as GMs our job is to make sure that the PCs get to that point level before that stage in the campaign.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Re: the straight fight question, well, depending on who he has accompanying him, my old New Sentinels team *might* be able to win. If he's helped by Stingray and Lamplighter? Way different situation than if he has Gravitar and Holocaust with him.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Meta, you've raised some very pertinent points, thank you for your contribution. :)

 

I agree with the weaknesses in RAVEN that you've defined. As a GM I quite like them. ;) I've never cared for perfect villains or perfect conspiracies. PCs should have some chink in their opponent's armor that they can exploit.

 

That would include leaving Zorran among the leadership of RAVEN. For various reasons conflict between Lemuria and RAVEN would be inevitable in that case, and it could be handy if heroes confronting one of these menaces had secret assistance from the other. Arvad the Betrayer may consider Zorran to be his pawn, but the Artificer is certainly no fool, and he would have very formidable backing including perhaps the only mentalist in the world mightier than Arvad.

 

I would still expect Stingray to be welcomed as a member of RAVEN, probably a high-ranking one. I always intended the leaders of the group (or the "Seventh Mystery," to borrow the ranking system from An Eye For An Eye) to be supplemented by other paranormals in various positions of authority; as many of them as they can persuade to join, in fact. And Atlantis would certainly remain one of the group's objectives if they have a legitimate claimant to the throne that they could install.

 

As far as potential enemies for RAVEN, absolutely. Once it's discovered it would be treated like any other major criminal organization in the Champions Universe by its rivals and by law enforcement. That might take a while, though. Unlike VIPER or Dr. D, and even moreso than DEMON, RAVEN attempts to hide its very existence.

 

It might be useful to recap the structural innovations that Steve Long instituted for his revision of RAVEN in AEFAE. The group is organized into seven ascending "Mysteries" to evoke the sense of an antique secret society. "Initiates of the First Mystery" are those drawn into the various innocuous-seeming front organizations that RAVEN uses to recruit members. Those "Initiates" aren't even aware of that name - it's only used by full members of RAVEN. Suitable candidates may be initiated into the Second Mystery in which they are told of the "true motives" of the group they've joined, but those are lies too. They think they're joining a radical political or religious movement, organized crime gang, racial extremist group, etc. This provides RAVEN with a cadre of willing dupes to use as grunts in their projects, with no apparent connection to the parent organization, and as patsies to take the fall if those projects are discovered. Only those who earn a place in the Third Mystery and above are privy to knowledge of RAVEN's existence and true purpose.

 

Certainly patterns are discernable, but in most cases you have to be looking for a pattern in order to find it, so you have to know it's there. Who would have reason to believe that Holocaust and Zorran are working together, or that either of them are helping prop up Joseph Otanga, or that a black magic cult and a high-tech group trying to custom create superhumans are part of the same organization as the masterminds of Russian organized crime? Of course as GM you should make sure that the pattern is noticeable to the PCs when the time is right for them to notice it.

 

( also' date=' I assume your toning down Menton's "proclivites" a bit, seeing as someone who raped people and then framed an innocent for it, for kicks, probably wouldn't be overly creeped out by the Lamplighter )[/quote']

 

Toned down a little, perhaps. But even as depraved as Menton is, it's a recognizably human depravity. Lamplighter is something less natural, a being who metaphorically, and perhaps even physically feeds on fear, guilt and despair; who corrupts the very souls of humans so that he can tear them from their bodies to be his eternal tools and playthings. Not even Menton is in that league. And given his powers Menton is probably quite capable of perceiving the difference.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

And this I think is the key to successful Super Criminal organization design. The challenge has to remain appropriate to the player characters; there's no fun in being handed a victory on a silver platter, but there's also no fun in being told that you can't make a difference (in a Superhero campaign), or that your survival depends on being too trivial a threat to arouse serious concern.

 

In an old-school D&D sort of way, the best way to use RAVEN and similar organizations might be to have the actions of the PCs themselves pushing the development of the orgainzation, with progressively greater force being drawn to them as the conspiracy begins to recognize the danget they represent, and the PCs themselves uncovering progressively deeper level of what should at each stage appear to be a nearly self contained criminal enterprise.

 

That's pretty much the way I would run it. :thumbup: The organization's reaction to the PCs as they become more prominent and persistant should be comparable to that of a man confronted by a fly buzzing around his head, then a mosquito trying to bite him, then a bee threatening to sting him, then a swarm of bees.

 

For a group like VIPER which is well known in the game world, the dynamic is slightly different. Once the heroes realize that they're facing VIPER they know pretty well what magnitude of foe they're taking on. OTOH for RAVEN it should be a gradual realization of how deep the manure pile that they've stepped in really is.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Repped. For the characters chosen, the well-written vignette, and the reuse of one of my favorite old-school organizations.

 

I could see a "deal with the devil" scenario where the PCs had to form an alliance with one (or more) of the enemies of this RAVEN (VIPER or DEMON come to mind; alternately, Eurostar or even Dr. D) to take them down; conversely, allying with RAVEN to take one of the others down. And, as an alt.CU.future, RAVEN could be at the heart of the post-DEMON future rather than

VIPER/Duchess Industries.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

As always, thank you for your kind words. :)

 

It would be very easy to imagine an alternate future Earth in which RAVEN succeeded in its goals. This could be anything from an effective, coherent hierarchy of paranormals (assuming continuing strong leadership at the top) which actually has made the lot of the average human better, at the cost of individual freedom and subservience to those whom Fate or luck has made "superior"; to a world fragmented and devastated after the leaders of RAVEN, having achieved their goals, begin to openly fight amongst themselves. Which direction the GM would want to go would depend on how he wants PCs to interact with RAVEN in the present.

 

Now I'd like to offer you a couple of other elements I've been thinking of including in the new RAVEN:

 

International Scientific Elite (ISE), pronounced "eyes". This cabal of scientists has as its front a variety of research laboratories, think-tanks, private schools and "high-IQ clubs" which recruit the intellectually gifted and scientifically trained. Those who show the right motivation are allowed to step beyond those relatively innocuous confines into the "Second Mystery." They are told that ISE is in fact dedicated to placing the scientific elite in effective control of the world. In pursuance of that goal ISE engages in technological and industrial espionage and sabotage, the development of advanced weapons and devices, as well as selling its inventive services to various underworld groups and unscrupulous governments. In this it competes somewhat with ARGENT and the Warlord, although ISE specializes more in the biological sciences, such as creating designer drugs or augmented superhuman henchmen.

 

Those who are deemed suitable for initiation into the Third Mystery learn of RAVEN's existence and true purpose. Thereafter their research focuses primarily on both reliably identifying and locating existing superhumans, and reliably creating new ones. Teleios is the overall director of ISE (known to most of his underlings only as "The Overseer"), but is assisted by other scientifically adept paranormals such as Brainchild, Hornet, Shrinker and Tesseract.

 

The Hoplites. Presented by Zorran the Artificer to each of his seven fellow governing domini (which I've named "The Septumvirate"), these constructs are modified versions of the standard Lemurian golem - see Conquerors, Killers And Crooks pp. 223-24 for details. These golems are fashioned of magically-strengthened bronze in the style of armor of the historical Greek warriors for whom they are named. In addition to their normal golem abilities, the Hoplites carry spears, swords and shields resembling ancient gear, but much more formidable.

 

Zorran has given one Hoplite to each of the Septumvirate as a personal bodyguard. Being as they are Automatons and thus immune to Mental Powers, they are useful backup should a Septumvir have to deal with a hostile mentalist... including, potentially, RAVEN's Grand Imperator, Menton. In addition, Zorran has given the Hoplites a mystic sense allowing them to determine whether someone is under external mental domination, and their masters have all given their Hoplites standing orders to give warning if they detect such an influence. Menton is willing to allow the Septumvirate to retain these golems for the greater sense of security it gives them; in truth he enjoys the challenge of working his machinations in spite of them.

 

Of course, it's up to the GM as to what other abilities and directives Zorran may have built into his constructs. :eg:

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

In its original form in Super Agents, although RAVEN was involved in ongoing research into advanced "doomsday weapons" with which to conquer or blackmail the world, in other areas the group confined itself to real-world technology. No unusual vehicles other than armored limousines and the like. The Super Agents version of UNTIL featured a super-submarine, as does the current Fifth Edition incarnation of that agency. Steve Long's Raven from An Eye For An Eye used a few relatively sophisticated gadgets, but nothing much beyond the capabilities of contemporary technology.

 

As I see this version of RAVEN, it won't go in for supertech weapons and vehicles the way that VIPER does. For one thing, it operates more covertly, avoiding as much as possible the high profile of open battles that would draw attention to its existence, although the supers in its employ may sometimes engage in them if that would advance RAVEN's cause in specific cases. For another thing, RAVEN exemplifies superhuman superiority over normal humans, so any technology that makes it look like humans can rival them would be discouraged. In my conception RAVEN would equip its human troops with combat tech enabling them to match most of the agents of other super-agencies, but certainly nothing approaching true superhuman levels. For major battles those human Legionaires would be at most support for the superpowered Praetorians.

 

EDIT: Thinking about that some more, I may specify that the Legionaires are told that they were chosen to wear the modular Testudo armor because they have unique physical factors which allow them to interface with its controls, in the way that Armadillo is uniquely capable of controlling his own armor. Thus their membership in the Legion is proof of their own "superiority." That may or may not be pure propaganda. ;)

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

After some consideration and discussion with others, a complicating factor occured to me regarding Teleios and his membership here. Specifically, his genetic skills are such that he can grant a normal human superhuman powers, potential *very* considerable ones. This could be seen as either:

 

1. The means to "induct" a worthy into the Superior Class

 

2. A threat to the whole concept of superiority, as he can giveth. . . and taketh away

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

You're not alone. ;) I realized shortly after I decided to incarnate this group in the 5E CU that it would become Enemy Number One to the IHA the moment they discovered its existence. This RAVEN is the Institute's worst paranoid nightmare made real: a worldwide conspiracy of paranormals dedicated to subjugating all "normal" humans. I personally would not want to have RAVEN provide limited support to the IHA - I dislike major superuniverse conspiracies manipulating other superuniverse conspiracies - but you could certainly go that way if you chose.

 

You're right that there was another agency in The Mutant File, called IMAGE, that was the opposite number to Genocide - a pro-mutant force whose leader had the same vision as Magneto. That example highlights another reason why I would dislike trying to make the IHA a pawn of RAVEN: IMAGE tried to do that with Genocide, to scare mutants into joining them, but they helped make Genocide so powerful that it became a major threat to IMAGE. Not that there aren't plenty of real-world examples of pawns of the powerful coming back to bite them. :rolleyes: Of course if you wanted that to happen, it is a great excuse to "upgrade" the IHA.

And with Menton having once BEEN a pawn of the powerful that came back to bite his former master, he would be very reluctant to echo that event.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

After some consideration and discussion with others, a complicating factor occured to me regarding Teleios and his membership here. Specifically, his genetic skills are such that he can grant a normal human superhuman powers, potential *very* considerable ones. This could be seen as either:

 

1. The means to "induct" a worthy into the Superior Class

 

2. A threat to the whole concept of superiority, as he can giveth. . . and taketh away

 

I like, actually.

 

If RAVEN is going for the whole 'nobility' meme, a way to 'grant' and 'revoke' 'nobility' makes sense - and makes inducting members into the Inner Mysteries much more interesting. Heck, postulate that RAVEN has been around for a while, and play "guess who RAVEN created".

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

After some consideration and discussion with others, a complicating factor occured to me regarding Teleios and his membership here. Specifically, his genetic skills are such that he can grant a normal human superhuman powers, potential *very* considerable ones. This could be seen as either:

 

1. The means to "induct" a worthy into the Superior Class

 

2. A threat to the whole concept of superiority, as he can giveth. . . and taketh away

 

I've given a lot of thought to Teleios's "supers-making" activities, and based on what's been presented about him to date I don't think we need to assume that he can produce superhumans at will. If that were the case, he logically ought to have more of them in his own service, as loyal as his cloned soldiers - which, although physically exceptional for humans, are nowhere near superhuman. One would also expect to see more Teleios-created superhumans out in the general populace. I personally am aware of only two official superbeings that owe their existence to Teleios, Monsoon and Obelisque, both in Champions Worldwide. And frankly, that whole explanation for him not giving himself powers as not wanting to sully his "perfection" is IMHO pretty thin. :rolleyes:

 

For my own campaign I've assumed that Teleios's ability to create or even clone superbeings is far from reliable. At heart it's because the principles which make superpowers possible go far beyond simple genetics, and merely reproducing a genetic code can no more perfectly produce a superhuman, than tracing the outlines of the Mona Lisa will result in a masterpiece of art.

 

For my campaign, Teleios can usually only grant lasting superpowers to someone he's identified as having the innate genetic factors to manifest them independently, and even then the process isn't infallible. Powers bestowed on someone without those factors often won't take, or if they do will fade fairly quickly. Often they cause very unpleasant mutations, or even death. Teleios's clones of superhumans, or new superpowered beings that he has "grown" almost always die after a few days to at most a few months. The viable specimens are very much the exception to the rule.

 

While there's nothing in what's been published about the CU to date which would definitively support this position, AFAIK there's nothing that would definitively negate it either. It's a reasonable rationale that allows Teleios to continue doing what he's been shown to be able to do, but keeps him from flooding the market with cheap knockoff supers. ;) Of course one of the main objectives of RAVEN's ISE branch (described upthread) will be to discover how to correct these deficiencies.

 

So, in regards to your point #2, this should keep Teleios's involvement with RAVEN from presenting major ideological conflicts, particularly the requirement that someone needs inborn potential "superiority" in order to become a stable superhuman mutate. As for point #1, that could indeed become an incentive for normal people to join and serve RAVEN, for the chance that they will be found to have superhuman potential. I expect that RAVEN scientists (and mystics in the case of the Dark Brotherhood) would screen all of their members for such potential, but actually bringing it out would be held as a reward for loyal service.

 

That was very useful input, Meta, thanks. :)

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

While your take works for the situation, gotta disagree about canon Teleios. One of the abilities he quite explicitly has is "Grow Superhuman." He has the relatively weak cloned soldiers because those are one of his main products, and they can be grown alot faster ( hundreds at a time, versus 2-3 350 point supers ). Also, these limits are all including the "Slavishly Loyal" advantage; sacrificing that would up his limits, albeit at risk ( rogue monstersaurus, anyone? ).

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

By my interpretation, he certainly can "Grow Superhuman" which are Slavishly Loyal. In most cases said superhuman simply won't last very long, which keeps Teleios from building up a huge force of them. The ones that do last, like Obelisque, are the exception, for reasons which Teleios himself does not understand. (I consider this a positive example of "magic causing superpowers.") ;)

 

Specifically referring to the "Grow Superhuman" Summon Power given for Teleios in his Champions Universe writeup, this concept would actually fit with it, since by normal definition of the Power any creature Summoned has to "leave" before more can be Summoned. Teleios being able to Summon without upper limit is already a "GM's permission" stretching of the Power, as per the description of Summon in the rulebook.

 

There is precedent for this in Champions. Fourth Edition VIPER had its "Project Stein," creating vat-grown superhumans, but almost all of those perished after brief periods. IMO this sort of thing is a good idea; someone having a reliable method of mass supers generation would severely throw off the balance of power in a comic universe, unless there are other factors restraining it.

 

So as far as I can see, these restrictions don't violate Teleios's canon writeup, while minimizing his potential to unbalance a campaign world. Of course you have the right to just plain not like them. :)

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Further to the subject of Teleios, I think an argument could be made either way for him being considered a "superhuman" and hence appropriate to include in RAVEN's membership. On the one hand his physical and mental abilities are far beyond what one could expect of people in the real world, well within the range for "trained superhumans" as defined in the Champions Universe, i.e. those who owe their extraordinary attributes to intense and sophisticated training in special disciplines. OTOH his abilities are still within the limit of what is possible for a non-superhuman being to achieve, so he isn't really "superhuman" by strict definition. Still, as has been pointed it he could probably bestow super powers on himself whenever he wished, unless one uses the restrictions I outlined upthread.

 

If anyone is bothered on principle by Teleios's presence in this group, excluding him would diminish the organization's resources significantly but not critically. Stingray would be one appropriate replacement from the Champions Universe, but while I'm on the subject of other members I'd like to nominate another potential candidate for the Septumvirate: Taipan, from Champions Worldwide. I know that he's described there as an assassin, but his character sheet implies that he could be much more than that. Taipan is very intelligent, with a pretty broad skillset including much knowledge of the underworld and the mercenary and espionage worlds. He's also very wealthy and has many Contacts in the underworld. If he could be persuaded to broaden his ambitions beyond contract killing, he has a lot to contribute to RAVEN's cause. And since almost nothing of his background or true identity has been revealed to date, it would be easy for a GM to come up with reasons for him to participate.

 

For my own use of RAVEN, I've decided that Taipan should lead RAVEN's Praetorian Guard of superhuman soldiers. He's certainly smart enough, and he specializes in attacking by surprise and from ambush, which would be the way this RAVEN prefers to operate when resorting to force. And his lethal power and reputation would keep the more belligerent supervillains in the Guard in line.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Nah, Teleios' intelligence and genetics skill are so extreme as to be effectively superhuman by any reasonable standard. I don't see anybody complaining just because he didn't make his body more extreme than it is.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

I'm not familiar with that concept' date=' SirViss, although I did watch a few episodes of that series. Would you mind elaborating?[/quote']

I think I missed the episode where they were introduced, but the Quick-clones were clones that they could whip in a very short time (minutes to an hour) and they could put them out in fairly large batches. They only lasted for about an hour, and weren't quite as good as the "original", but they were good for misdirection and distractions.

 

I could see Teleios having come up with a process to make a quick-clone of himself. All he would need is the base materials (a body, live or dead) to do this. A quick injection and a turn to a minute later a clone dtand-in is found, and is around for about an hour.

 

Great for those quick get-aways to send the PCs on the wrong track. What happens to the clone after the process weras off is up to the individual GMs. :eg:

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Not a bad idea. He'd need to include some kind of memory/personality implant to make it work as anything other than a dead body, but with his genetic skills, I'm sure he could incorporate "memory RNA" or such into the injection.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

IIRC Demonologist of the Devil's Advocates does something very similar with magic. He has underlings or captives fitted with collars that transform them into copies of himself to fool his enemies. They don't have all his memories or sorcerous skills, but enough to cover his tracks.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

One of the few things I liked about C:NM was their take on P.S.I. The young Mentalists had grown up and matured into a serious threat on the level of Menton, but without the grand standing. The way LL is writing up RAVEN I can see a Member of P.S.I. joining up.

 

Cheers

 

QM

 

P.S.: More REP coming you way LL.

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Re: [storytime] Birth of RAVEN

 

Well, as I see it, due to his "hatred of mentalists" Limitation (which IMO is at least partly due to some of Lamplighter's Powers not being effective against other mentalists), Lamplighter is unlikely to have another of them among his own superhuman retainers. However, any of the other leaders in the Seventh Mystery could, and the non-psionic ones probably would, if only to warn them when Menton was spying on them.

 

As per the semi-feudal structure inspired by earlier versions of RAVEN, the members of the Septumvirate (the seven leaders below the Grand Imperator, Menton) would supervise RAVEN activities in each of their regions of the world, and all RAVEN members responsible for areas or operations within those regions would be answerable to them, including some of the superhuman domini. Like a feudal king, the Grand Imperator would have final authority over the Septumvirate, but would also control assets of his own, and have minions who reported directly to him rather than any of the Septumvirs. Those would include some of the group's most important assets: the largest division of the Legion, the Praetorian Guard, and RISC.

 

So while the Lamplighter would have a say in what superhumans served him, that would hardly exclude any that the other leaders wanted to induct into RAVEN.

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